WHAT IS EVIDENTIAL APOLOGETICS?

Evidential Apologetics, also sometimes referred to as Natural Apologetics, uses empirical arguments “about the life, miracles, death and resurrection of Christ are presented as probabilistic proofs”[1].

Introduction – Apologetics Defined

Apologetics is the art and science of presenting the Gospel in such a way as to overcome the objections of a reluctant person for whom Christ died, or more simply, the reasoned defense of the Christian faith [2]. The Bible gives a clear mandate for believers to defend the Gospel against attacks in 1 Peter 3:15, where it says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” [3].  Christians are to do apologetics for several reasons, which include a commandment from God, demand from reason, a need from the world, and prior positive results [4].

Although the command to do the apologetic task is a universal command, the approach that one may take is far from universal. Three main approaches exist in doing apologetics: Experiential Apologetics, Evidential Apologetics (Natural Apologetics), and Presuppositional Apologetics.

Apologetic Methodologies

Experiential Apologetics seeks to validate the claims of Christianity by one’s experiences. It argues on behalf of the Gospel by using both their experiences and the benefits of the Christian life. Presuppositional Apologetics ‘seeks to validate Christianity by first asking: Does anything except Christianity allow us to make sense of the world?’” One who takes the presuppositional approach believes that one must presuppose that Christianity is true, and then proceed to show that all other religious systems are false” [5].

The evidential apologist uses all available evidence, just as an attorney would in a court of law. They use creation, history, logic, reason, and testimony among other things. They use “simple argumentation and common sense” because they believe that there is “sufficient evidence for God’s existence and that man is capable of considering the logic and reasonableness of Christianity” [6].

To the Evidentialist, the truths of Christianity can be both explained and verified. Such evidences for the Christian faith, although reasonable, explainable, and verifiable, are not salvific. However, they can lead an unbeliever to the point where they may be open to the truths of Christ’s salvific work and nature.

Problems with the Evidential Method

Problems exist, although minor in nature, with Evidential Apologetics. First, it assumes that man, in a fallen state, once presented with the ‘evidence’, can come to the conclusion of Christ as Lord. However, only the drawing of the Holy Spirit, as given by the grace of God, can ultimately lead a fallen man to the conclusion that Christ is Lord. Additionally, Evidential Apologetics can “become dry and academic in presentation, and [thus reduce] God to a propositional statement or an argument” [7].  If one is not careful, they can reduce apologetics, and thus Christianity, to a list of facts and figures that do nothing but ‘educate’ a person. One must remember that any form of Apologetic is only the beginning – Christ completes the work. Finally, in Evidential Apologetics, reason could be given too must importance. Reason and logic, though important, do not save person, regardless of how accurate their reason and logic is. “It still takes a supernatural element to get someone saved”.

Spokesmen for the Evidential Method of Apologetics

Many evangelicals and fundamentalists adopt the Evidential method of Apologetics.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274),  Ravi Zacharias (born 1946), C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), John W. Montgomery (born 1931), Clark Pinnock (born 1937), Norman Geisler (born 1932), Josh McDowell (born 1939), Ravi Zacharias (born 1946), William Lane Craig (born 1949), Gary Habermas (born 1950), and Ergun Caner (birth year unknown).

Conclusion

Evidential Apologetics relies on the evidences for the Christian faith. For one desiring to challenge an unbeliever to “examine the claims [that] Jesus Christ is God’s Son”, that He “lived among real men and women”, and that he “died in the cross for the sin of mankind [and was] buried and He arose three days later”, the Evidential method is the perfect tool [8]. “Many people have been convinced that the Christian faith is true as a result of such apologetic methods”, and thus this method is an effective apologetic method to present and defends the claims of the Christian faith.[9]

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Key search words: Liberty University Intro to Apologetics, APOL 500, Evidential Apologetics, Natural Apologetics

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Endnotes

1          Eric Douma, “Apologetics: The Battle For Truth,” Twin City Fellowship,http://twincityfellowship.com/audio/biblestudy_mp3/apologetics/apologetics05.pdf(accessed November 10, 2009).

2          Ergun Caner, “Apologetics 500: Lecture One, The Need for Apologetics” [Class lecture notes, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, date unknown].

3          1 Peter 3:15, The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1979.

4          Norman L. Geisler, “An Apologetic for Apologetics,” Dr. Norman Geisler, http://www.normangeisler.net/ apologetic.html (accessed November 11, 2009).

5          Caleb Colley, “Ready Always to Give an Answer,” Apologetics Press: Scripturally Speaking,http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240172 (accessed November 12, 2009), quoting Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999).

6          Ergun Caner, “Apologetics 500: Lecture Four, The Major Methodologies of Apologetics.” [Class lecture notes, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, date unknown].

7          Ibid.

8          Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972), 363-67.

9          Gary F. Zeolla, “Josh McDowell and Apologetic Methods,” Darkness to Light, http://www.dtl.org/ apologetics/ng-post/mcdowell.htm (accessed November 08, 2009).

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Caner, Ergun. “Apologetics 500: Lecture One, The Need for Apologetics.” Class lecture notes, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, date unknown.

________. “Apologetics 500: Lecture Four, The Major Methodologies of Apologetics.” Class lecture notes, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, date unknown.

Colley, Caleb. “Ready Always to Give an Answer.” Apologetics Press: Scripturally Speaking. http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240172 (accessed November 12, 2009).

Douma, Eric. “Apologetics: The Battle For Truth.” Twin City Fellowship.http://twincityfellowship.com/audio/biblestudy_mp3/apologetics/apologetics05.pdf (accessed November 10, 2009).

Geisler, Norman L. “An Apologetic for Apologetics.” Dr. Norman Geisler. http://www.normangeisler.net/apologetic.html (accessed November 11, 2009).

McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972.

Zeolla, Gary F. “Josh McDowell and Apologetic Methods.” Darkness to Light.http://www.dtl.org/apologetics/ng-post/mcdowell.htm (accessed November 08, 2009).

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